Topkapi Palace, one of world’s richest museums, can be considered as the best and the most visited sights in Istanbul together with the neighboring Hagia Sophia. Situated on a triangular promontory dominating the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Fatih district, along the Sultanahmet Sqaure, Topkapi Palace is a magnificent oriental palace and one of the world’s greatest architectural works. Topkapi Palace, converted to a museum in 1924, is also one of the most visited landmarks and museums in Istanbul and in the world.
General Info & History
Topkapi Palace was the residence of the Ottoman sultans as well as the administrative and educational center of the Empire. The palace was constructed atop the Byzantine acropolis on Sarayburnu at the tip of the historical peninsula, between the years of 1460-1478 with the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmed, conquest of Istanbul in 1453. Covering an area of about 700,000 m2, the palace is surrounded by the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. And on the land, it is surrounded by a 1,400-meters city walls known as the “Royal Walls” and with the Byzantine walls on the side facing the sea.
Topkapi Palace complex has a giant design and consists of three main gates that include the Imperial Gate (Bâb-ı Hümâyûn), the Gate of Salutation (Bâbüsselâm) and the Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde), four courtyards, the Harem, the Royal Gardens (also known as Rose Garden (Gülbahçe) and several other gardens.
The Imperial Gate
Topkapi Palace continued to be the residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 350 years, until the early 1850s. As the palace has become very inadequate to the needs such as ceremonies and protocol, sultans moved to the Dolmabahce Palace, which is situated in Besiktas, Bosphorus shores.
But despite the move, the many collections such as the royal treasure, the Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammad and the imperial archives continued to be preserved at the Topkapi Palace. In the year of 1924, as the Republic of Turkey established, Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum with the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Topkapi Palace houses the finest samples of seal, book binding, jewelry and box craftsmanship as well as inscriptions. The former imperial kitchen houses the finest collection of Chinese porcelain in the world. The Sultans’ costumes also exhibited there. The Treasury has a breathtaking and excellent collection of jewels such as emeralds, rubies and diamonds adorn turban crests, swords, golden thrones embroidered with seed pearls.
The Baghdad Pavilion, decorated with beautiful blue tiles, houses a sanctuary containing relics of the Prophet Mohammed, as well as exhibitions of paintings and manuscripts. And than comes the world famous Harem, the private part of the palace where the wives and concubines of the sultans were lived.
Also the famous Hagia Irene Church, now a museum and a center cultural activities and exhibitions, is located at the first court of the palace. Like Harem, you need to buy separate ticket to visit Hagia Irene.
- Arms and Weapons – part of the private collection of Topkapi Palace; the finest samples of craftsmanship and ornamentation of The Ottomans; weaponry owned by Sultan Mehmed II, Bayezid II, Selim the Grim, Suleiman the Magnificent, Selim II, Mehmed II, and Ahmed I and more
- Chinese and Japanese Porcelains – one of the finest collection of Chinese porcelains in the world, together with Japanese Porcelains are exhibited at the Imperial Kitchens;
- Copper and Goldplate Copper Kitchen Utensils – Copper works are an important part of the kitchenware of the Topkapi Palace; exhibited at the Confectionery House.
- European Porcelains and Glasses – about 5,000 pieces of porcelain ware from various countries in Europe.
- Imperial Treasury – Kasikci (Spoon-maker) Diamond, Topkapi Dagger, Jewelled pendants and plumes, treasury weapons, thrones and gifts for Sultans.
- Istanbul Glassware and Porcelain – about 2,000 pieces of porcelain.
- Pavilion of the Holy Mantle and Holy Relics – holy relics, Holy Mantle of the Prophet Muhammad, the hair from the Prophet Muhammad’s beard, the tray used by Abraham;, the staff of Moses, the sword of David, the robe of Joseph, the swords of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions exhibited at the Privy Room (Has Oda).
- Portraits of Sultans and Paintings – variety of very valuable portraits of 36 different ruling sultans beginning with the foundation of the Ottoman state.
- Silverware – rich collection of about 2,000 works of silverware made up of works from the 16th to the 19th centuries
- Sultan Caftans, Fabrics, Carpets and Sacred Coverings – collection of sultans’ clothing; finest examples of Ottoman textile art.
The Harem is a whole different world where the wives and concubines of the sultans were lived. It was the world of love, intrigue and jealousy and has an important value on the administration of the Empire.The Privy Chamber of Murad III, decorated with blue and red tiles is one of the most beautiful rooms of the Harem that worth a visit and see, as well as the dome with outstanding classical patterns, a built-in marble fountain with three levels, and the best examples of wooden doors. Note that you need to buy separate ticket to visit Harem.
Above, we gave you brief information about what you will find at the Topkapi Palace. As you also realized, it is a giant complex and you need to have at least 2-3 hours to tour the palace. The palace has four courts, you are free to enter the first court that you’ll find beautiful gardens with very very old huge trees, the museum souvenir shop and cafe and ticket counter.
After you buy your entrance ticket you are free to go for the other three courts and visit the palace buildings and exhibition. On this link, you can see the Topkapi Palace Plan Map.
You may explore the Topkapi Palace Museum via daily tours made by the local travel agents with professional guides. It is a very good option if you don’t want to go through the hassle of making all the arrangements including the tickets, waiting at the queue and 2-ways transportation by your own and feel like you may have troubles with them. And we recommend the two world brands GetYourGuide or Viator tours, made by the best reputed and registered tour agents in Istanbul and offer comfortable, safe and the cheapest tours with 2-ways transportation from your hotel or meeting point, professional guides, insurance and easy cancellation. You may find the top selling guided Topkapi Palace & Harem tours below.
- 60 TL except Harem Section
- Harem entrance is 35 TL
- Hagia Irene Church entrance is 30 TL
Entrance is free for Turkish children and teenagers (18 years old or younger)/
Foreign children (12 years old or younger) are also free, with exception in the Harem, which is only free to foreign children under 6.
Open every day from 09:00-18:45 (from 15 April to 31 October), 09:00-16:45 (from 01 November to 15 April)
Ticket counters close 45 mins. before the museum closing time.
Not open for visiting in the first days of Ramadan and Sacrifice Festivals for half time.
The Topkapi Palace is situated in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Fatih district, along the Sultanahmet Sqaure, just very close to the famous Hagia Sophia Museum. Getting to Topkapi Palace is very easy and there are several transportation options.
How to Get There?
- For the ones who stay in the Sultanahmet hotels, they can get to Topkapi Palace by walking.
- From Taksim, you may take the Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line) from the Kabatas stop or the other stops along the Galata Bridge. To get to tram stops; from the Taksim Square, you may take the Taksim-Kabatas funicular (F1 line), get to Kabatas tram stop and take the tram for Sultanahmet. And from the end of the Istiklal Street, on the Tunel Square, you may walk downwards or take the Tunel-Karakoy funicular (F2 line) to get to Karakoy tram stop and take the tram for Sultanahmet.
- From Kadikoy or Uskudar, on the Asian side, you may take the ferries operating to Kabatas, Karakoy or Eminonu and from there you may take the Bagcilar-Kabatas tram (T1 line) for Sultanahmet.
- Also note that the Sultanahmet Square and most of the connecting roads are closed for vehicle traffic except tram and tour busses. Getting to Sultanahmet by your private car is not recommended. You’ll need to leave your car far away.
You may see the public bus routes and timetables as well as make a route/station search from the Istanbul Municipality Public Busses website. Also check the Istanbul Railway Network Map for the Tram stops and Istanbul Ferry Lines Map for ferries.
Address: Sultanahmet, Fatih, Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 512 04 80
Fax: +90 212 526 98 40